OPINION2 April 2020

How the collective Covid-19 ‘stop & think’ might benefit your business

Covid-19 Opinion

The uncertain and unusual situation offers an opportunity to review and rethink our insight activity, says Matthew Sell. 

Stop and think pause_crop

Our business reality has changed. And for the show to go on, we must accept this new reality and find new ways of generating long-term value for our brands and businesses. This enforced stop ‘n’ think moment is an opportunity for us all to have a retrospective view of our activities. This is worthwhile because while we must accept the world will be different post-Covid-19, our human behavioural motivations will remain largely similar. This is evident in that the same cognitive biases involved in decision-making, shown in early behavioural science experiments in the 19th century, remain when comparable experiments are repeated in 2020.

We won’t change as people after Covid-19, but there will be level of societal and commercial reset. How far this is a complete reset versus a short-term interruption of normal service will depend on many things. Some categories will be more susceptible to a complete reset – research may just be one of them. Others will return to pre-Covid ‘normality’ more quickly. But how can we return to this ‘normality’? One way is to revisit and reinterpret, then repackage and reissue, the data we already own with the filter of the new Covid-19 normality we’ll all see around us.

Revisit and reinterpret

Every business with an insight and research function is sitting on millions of £/$/€ of insight value that in normal times might be viewed differently. These are not normal times. 

Much in our research back-catalogues remains relevant. Some things dismissed as immaterial in the past will be profound in the future. Sifting, interpreting and then re-telling new stories with past data is possible, not least because we can fuse it with the new insights about how consumers are thinking and behaving which are being published as free content every day.

But how? There are multiple means. For example, you can combine meta-analysis and design thinking to innovate new concepts around existing data or apply big data algorithms to quantify and bring meaning to thousands of underutilised open ends or online product and customer service reviews.

Repackage and reissue

But if these ideas feel complex and unwieldy, we can generate great value by simply re-issuing old insight-based content which remains relevant, but just in a new format – think of it as insight rejuvenation. Insight is just like any form of published content. It follows a similar trajectory of an initial growth in engagement, followed by a plateau, and then the inevitable decay as it loses its novelty.

Insight decay happens slowly and under the radar. The steady flow of new research content camouflages the loss and obscures it until eventually the insight itself is forgotten. But we can overcome this.

Some planning and effort allows us to explore ways we can reframe this existing information and upcycle it into something more immediately valued. The content at its heart remains unchanged but its presentation is sometimes radically altered giving the insight a facelift and new energy. 

This works by first understanding the basis for the decay of the insight. There’s a four-step plan that’s worked through to assess any single piece of work, which when complete, allows us to comfortably understand what steps to take if we want to try and re-issue. Issues around the previous relevance, scope, presentation and framing of the insight need to be evaluated. This may result in data to re-cut, vocabulary or language to change, or simply a reduction in focus to only one component part of a study that was first presented more broadly. 

Yes, right now we are in disturbing, difficult, and unusual times. But it’s also an opportunity to review our activity in a way we may never get again and help see past the treadmill of insight creation that defined much of our pre-Covid-19 day-to-day.

Matthew Sell is chief operating officer at Northstar Research